dear diary :: it’s been a while

Hello there….long time no see.  I thought I would be back sooner than this but recent events have kept me busy and I am not just referring to the dreaded virus.

Thank you for all your lovely comments and well wishes, advice and suggestions on my last post – they were much appreciated and I hope you don’t mind me not answering them individually, it was difficult to sit at the computer until my back recovered.

Although I was housebound for a few days with my bad back I am now fully recovered…..just in time to be housebound once again because of the virus!

I feel as if I am about to journey through a long dark tunnel, not really knowing where the end will be.  Plans we might have made for this year are now well and truly abandoned as are any visits to Scotland to our cottage and caravan.  The garden up there will no doubt become wild over time and all the hard work we have put in over the years will be quickly lost.  It feels like a repeat of what happened when the cottage flooded and 10 years of renovations were wiped out within hours.

We are managing to cope though – in fact we are in a very privileged positon both of us being at home and living on the state pension of DH and mine soon to come in May….we have few of the financial worries that others are facing, although this might come along after when we find many thousands wiped off the value of our private pension pot that we have not, as yet, had to draw on.

My main concern now is for my family and in particular for my dear mum – I am heartbroken for her as she faces weeks of isolation at a time when she cannot really look after herself.  For those readers who do not know my mum is 94 and struggling to walk now because of osteoarthritis in her right hip, added to which she recently caught a sickness bug which completely wiped her out and the main reason for my extended absence in blogland.  We managed to sort out some ‘aids’ for around the home and a walker so that she can get about her flat better and more safely. She is up and down each day, one day not even being able to get out of bed and the next feeling brighter and more able. Luckily a neighbour had been popping in to make her a cup of tea and my sister went every day but she had not fancied eating very much at all and had become quite weak.

I was unable to travel up to see her when she was first ill as I found it too painful to sit in the car because of my back. As soon as I could I was exercising my back each day, but it wasn’t until Mother’s Day that I was able to go up there, just before the travel clamp down came – we went knowing it would be my last chance to see her for the forseeable future. We took the little tin trough of pink carnations to cheer her up and a picnic which we ate indoors with her – she tucked into our home made leek and potato soup and a cheese and pickle sandwich – I expect she was quite ravenous not having eaten much for the past two weeks because of the sickness bug. I had also made her a fresh cream chocolate cake – her favourite – and left some in the fridge for later.

Because she hadn’t been out for a few weeks and hadn’t been able to watch the TV she had no idea how bad things have become in the world because of the coronavirus. We would have liked to take her for a short run in the car to the coast so she could see the outside world but she was not well enough and we would not have wanted to add to the madness that was out there that day.  Instead we watched an old black and white film on TV together and just having some company for the afternoon cheered her up no end.

With the new government rules of no unnecessary travel in place I will not see her again for a long while added to which it is uncertain whether my sister will be allowed into my mum’s apartment block to care for her ….the apartment manager told me that it might be that only official carers will be allowed in soon. The apartments are classed as Independent Living, so if you need carers the management company are saying that you should not be living there.  The only option for any residents that are not able to look after themselves may be to go into a care home but I can tell you these places are already booked up as the NHS are moving recovering patients into them to convalesce and free up hospital beds.

It has been such a worry for me but I have managed to set up one teatime slot for 3 days a week with a carer who will go in and help mum and provide some human contact and this should help if my sister is not allowed access.  All the residents have been told they must stay in their own apartments and not pop in and out to see their friends and must keep their distance from one another. There are no papers being delivered either and as very few have the internet they are becoming more and more isolated.

As you can imagine mum is not happy at having a stranger forced upon her but we will see how she adapts in the next few days and I hope she will accept their help and not send them away.   She also heard last week that her appointment to see the musculoskeletal clinic has now been cancelled – she was devastated – she was only a week away….it seems so cruel when she is in such pain.

In between all the phone calls and dramas I have been baking and trying hard not to waste any food.  I had left over cream to use up from mum’s chocolate cake so I baked a batch of fruit scones….a little indulgent, but quite delicious.

I am trying to visit the supermarket as little as possible – this requires a lot of forward planning with menus to make sure we eat the fruit and veggies that have a shorter life first. Any green stalks and leaves cut off the vegetables go into our green soup. We even sprinkled the left over cous cous over the last batch together with some parmesan cheese as a garnish – it was actually quite nice.

I have been cleaning too.  This virus makes me feel quite grubby every time we have been out for our essentials so I have been giving the bathroom and kitchen an extra dose of elbow grease and detox spray.

When the sun was out last week we had a lovely walk up towards the moors above where we live – there were people about but not too many and when we passed it was at a safe distance.  Looking across the valley everything seemed so deceivingly normal and like the cat and the sheep, basking in the warmth of the sunshine, we felt relieved that spring had finally made an appearance.

Of course it was short lived and this week we have been plunged back into a cold spell with hail falling occasionally and a bitterly cold wind. So what better way of keeping warm than doing a spot of cooking in the kitchen. I had eggs to use up and a few pieces of cauliflower so made these little cheesy savouries in a muffin tin to have with some fresh salad.

I then used up the last of the mushrooms and leeks by making these individual pies topped with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

We are managing to eek out all our groceries so that our visits to the supermarket are as few as possible. I have spent some time this week reorganising my recipe folders and searching out new recipes to try. I will spend the rest of the week with a long overdue task of reorganising a box full of photos. I will at the same time be looking for one or two of my elder daughter to make a photo book of her life so far for her 40th birthday which is coming up soon. There will be no big party or celebration for her – everything is cancelled – we will have to have a party by internet connection of some kind. I am not sure how you can play party games via Skype or Zoom but we will find a way!

I have a great deal of catch up to do in blogland so will be hopping over to my favourite places and hopefully will not leave it as long next time to write another post.

Hoping all is well with you too. Many safe distance hugs to everyone. x

dear diary :: a melancholy message

I find myself in a rather ungainly, almost prostrate positon of late. Although, thankfully not face down. A rather painful episode of a strained, maybe even sprained, back has siezed me in its grip and I am best when lying quite motionless. It happened yesterday just as I was gearing up into a slightly brisker mode now the hibernating season is beginning to retreat.

DH might be relieved that he can attempt the housekeeping and cooking without any interference from me.

Until normal posture and wellbeing resume these few paltry words and images are all I can manage….meanwhile I shall entertain myself with a little light You Tube watching.

Back soon as my back is mended! x

dear diary :: out and about and little treats

An unexpected blogging break – not because I have had nothing to say but because I couldn’t easily use the computer with my sore middle finger that was as a result of a dog bite at the weekend.

We spent the weekend up in North Yorkshire to look after my mum while sis was away on a short holiday – we had taken mum out for lunch on the Sunday to Northallerton and we were browsing in a shop when it happened; I was helping my mum to choose a card when a couple passed behind us with a dog. As they passed the dog (who was on a lead, thankfully) suddenly went for my hand that was down by my side and bit me – quite an unprovoked attack so something of a surprise for me and luckily I had my leather gloves on or it could have been worse. The owners didn’t have a clue that it had bitten me as they were not particularly looking at the dog at the time but did look to see why I had let out a bit of a sharp cry of pain!

I think the shock for me was worse at the time than the bite as I didn’t see it coming – the couple thought it was highly amusing and said the dog had a habit of biting gloves – but unfortunately my hand was inside mine at the time and afterwards my finger became quite sore and stiff for a few days. Since the incident with the dogs in the park last summer I have been rather wary of them and haven’t as yet been back to the park, but I never thought one would bite me for no reason in a shop. I am only relieved that it didn’t bite my mum or worse still one of the grandchildren.

After the eventful weekend we had quite a slow start to our week – a bit of a potter round unpacking, a supermarket shop to stock up the pantry, a bit of work on the new kitchen design and yesterday while the weather was dry and sunny outside we stopped what we were doing and went for a walk down to the village and around the block – it is really a very small town with a town hall but everyone refers to it as the village – we called at the Co-op to buy a pack of paracetamol (just in case of you no what).

I noticed we have a new sign in the centre of the village – a picture taken by a friend of mine – this is very typical of the towns and villages around here – a true Yorkshire mill town with stone terraced houses and cottages surrounded by hills and moorland.

I picked up a free copy of the Co-op magazine which has some lovely recipes inside – I will certainly be giving the chick pea minestrone a trial. I also added the very last bunch of those cheap and cheerful daffodils to my basket – they brighten up any spot in the home and make it feel like winter might soon be passing.

DH once bought me this unsual and colourful frosted glass vase for my birthday and it is perfect to display the daffodils in. I tried to find some witch hazel or winter jasmine to add to the arrangement but to no avail so had to make do with a couple of meandering honeysuckle branches instead.

I spotted quite a number of daffodils still in bud on the way home, no doubt quite sheltered here by the wall but still reluctant to open and brave this cold weather. I could see the blossom just starting to open on the bare branches of the cherry trees too so surely now spring is just around the corner.

I have been thinking…. planning even……. for when I can get out into the garden and was tempted to buy this book called ‘Veg in One Bed’ by Huw Richards. A perfect book for me as I have very little space to grow vegetables here in our garden in Yorkshire. The author guides you through month by month explaining what to do and how and when to do it. Even though they are more expensive I do love a hard backed book for things that I will keep and refer to….I think it will be money well spent.

Having finished the tablemats I decided I would have another go at making a patchwork quilt whilst the weather is still cold and before I am beckoned into the garden. I have a small heap of rather triangular offcuts from when I made the bunting for my daughter’s wedding. I had saved them with a view to making her a cot quilt for her first baby but as she surprised us with little Freddie the peachy colours and flower prints are a bit too feminine.

I intend to make a quilt anyway either for her or her sister’s two little girls, Little L and Sweetie. I spent a morning cutting out strips with the special ruler and rotary cutter I bought years ago. I love the old fashioned vintage quality of the prints – they are mostly fabrics from the Belleboo range and are a lovely cotton lawn.

The knitting has taken a bit of a back seat this week – it is hard to knit with a sore finger but as you can see from the photo above I have made some progress on the little jumper and now have a front to my back. Hopefully knitting will resume any day soon.

When we saw my mum at the weekend we also took her to Eggleston Hall on the Saturday for lunch. I had a baked potato with cheese and salad and my mum chose the rather delicious looking tomato and red pepper soup.

Sadly, walking around the garden and nursery is not in her capabilities now so she sat and read the local newpaper with another cup of tea while we had a quick wander round. It is by far one of my favourite places; summer or winter there is so much to see. The gardeners working in the nursery looked extremely busy, in and out of the greenhouses and moving tiny plants around getting ready for the gardening season.

My favourite part of the garden is down by the old ruin – the former Chapel of Ease – a private chapel which closed in 1868.

You can walk through the chapel ruin taking the stepping stones that lead you around the old, presumably self seeded, tree growing in the centre and in the absolute quietness here delight at the abundance of birdsong. Like a secret little hideaway there is plenty to discover….

…..and outside the surrounding graveyard is strewn with a carpet of snowdrops weaving their way amongst the old gravestones. What a wonderful resting place.

Some of the old outbuildings in the garden are now home to one or two resident artists and crafters.

Inside they have a roaring fire (so welcome on these bitterly cold days) and some beautiful cards and gifts by some very talented artists. I bought these little glass coasters from photographer Amanda Hodgson as a gift for next Christmas for a very dear friend of mine who (you guessed it) loves Robins. They came nestled inside a lovely velvet gift bag.

My lovely mum – I caught her unawares when I took this picture in the cafe – she was much brighter for her trip out and a good lunch. Seeing her here you would not think she was 94 nor that she is currently struggling to walk. Her top half looks fine but below the table is a different story with arthritis in both her knees and feet leaving them swollen and deformed now. She would want me to tell you though that her hair colour is only just starting to turn grey – quite an achievemnent.

So that has been my week – a mixture of days – some productive some less so but all of them leaving me with a story to tell.

Hope you are all having a good week and avoiding the lurgy of doom! Take care everyone and of course a warm welcome to my new followers. xx

dear diary :: a glimpse of Spring

But only for some. Whilst London and Saddleworth (over the hill from us) had snow we basked in glorious sunshine yesterday.

Heaven.

It was the kind of day when it felt so good to be alive. I like a positive start to the day – it seems to make everything else go right. Even when I came across a temporary blockage across the road trying to get to the physiotherapist on time, I still manage to remain unflustered and kept smiling.

The world I fear is in a very sorry state at the moment. There has been a case of Coronavirus reported in the next little village to us and of course there is a lady in Tenerife waiting to be allowed back to Huddersfield. When I popped in to my old workplace one of the employees was in self isolation at home and had been asked not to go into work as they had just returned from a holiday in Italy. We also have a very high Chinese population here studying at the University and many are walking about wearing masks now – it all feels a bit eerie. I keep washing my hands in hope it will help!

I finished the tablemats – for anyone wanting to make some I have given more details below. I am loving them already but will put them away to use nearer to Easter – why I thought Easter fell in March I don’t know; I checked the calendar to find it begins on the 10th April. In a way this is good news as I have longer to prepare, not that we do a lot but I have started making things for the grandchildren now like I used to make for our own daughters.

I didn’t think I would manage another post but here I am. We are going to see mum for the weekend. My sister is away on holiday for a much needed rest as mum has had her almost in tears a few times recently, her general demise and lack of mobility has made her……for the want of a better word….plain old grouchy. I can understand her frustration, her life has become very boring now she cannot get out by herself, yet my sister cannot be there to entertain her every day. We need a solution or we will all go stir crazy with her.

The occupational therapist will see her on Monday to assess her for a walking frame (or a ‘pusher’ as she calls it) in the hope that she will be able to walk further using one and get about a bit more. Strangely enough until mum had the x-ray on her hip and was told it was not in very good shape she had not complained about it very much – usually when it rained – it had always been about her knees or vertigo. Now she never mentions either only her hip that seems so bad she cannot do very much at all. She has seriously gone down hill since knowing there is a problem and is merrily dosing herself up with codeine as well as co-codamol even though she has been told she can take either but not both. What does one do??

DH had his dentistry – it wasn’t quite 2.30 but close. He was very brave and didn’t even get a sticker and declined to have the tooth to keep. Afterwards I was on cooking duty whilst he cosied up by the fire and watched a film. We had a sheherds pie made with lentils of course and the remains will go with us tomorrow. I also made some quiche bases and I will fill and bake them before we set off for North Yorkshire. I will make a little one for mum to hang on to as she likes homemade quiche.

So that was my day how was yours?

To make the tablemats –

I bought a pack of Sainsbury’s teatowels in a thick linen type fabric. They usually measure about 19″ by 28″ and come in two or three varying designs in a pack.

I wash them first, then unpick the hems and cut each one in half so I have either four or six pieces. I usually mix and match so I have a different pattern on the reverse so I can flip them over.

Using a pattern 14″ x 19″ which includes a 1/2″ seam allowance – I pin this on the fabric and cut around to straighten up the tea towel fabric and make sure it is a perfect rectangle. Also cut out a piece of thick vilene to sandwich between the layers. With right sides together and a piece of vilene to the underside of one piece sew around the edges with a 1/2″ seam allowance, leaving a gap of about 5″ for turning through.

Trim seam allowance to 1/4″ and cut across the corners. Turn through and press. Neatly hand sew the gap to close. Top stitch about 3/4″ in from edge all way round.

dear diary :: still looking like winter

At least it was when I peered through the window today; sleet, snow, rain – interspersed with a little (and I mean a little) sunshine. Spring seems a long way off.

So I am keeping myself busy….and warm.

After all the excitement of finishing the pantry we now have to move on to make decisions about the new kitchen. We started looking at new kitchens back in 2008 and had one on order, but shortly after I found I had to have major surgery followed by a few months of treatment so we had to cancel.

We tried again in 2010 (but then my mum decided to move up North and we had to pack up and sell the family home), 2012 (my mum in law became very ill and we had to pack up and sell her house when she went into a care home), 2014 (we had the flood at the cottage), 2016 (my daughter decided to get married and we had a wedding to organise) 2020…. here we go again….. and hopefully this time no unexpected events will surprise us and we can actually get one installed.

Whilst the weather continues to be quite horrendous I have not minded spending time browsing around the local showrooms – delving into pan drawers and canterlever corner cupboards, testing out the spring lifted wall cupboard doors, the slide under oven doors and the soft close drawer drawers. They are all wonderful and exciting to me as anything is an improvement on my old ‘shabby but definitely NOT chic’ kitchen with the falling apart wonky doors and drawers held in place by DH’s hand made wooden runners to replace the plastic ones that failed years ago.

I really should be turning my attentions to the garden, so many plants in bud now waiting for the tiniest hint of warmth – but I look outside at the snow falling and decide I will remain in hibernation a little longer.

My time is spent inside on more practical household jobs – I am so caught up with the washing I am now waiting for something to wash, the ironing is done and in the airing cupboard and I even had a go at removing the candlewax from my linen tablecloth (and quite successfully I might add).

When I do have some spare time I am sewing – I have had that sudden urge to make something since completing the duvet cover for little Sweetie. Rummaging around, as one does occasionally, through my fabric stash I noticed I had some more tea towels that I bought a while ago and intended to make into tablemats.

My last efforts were quite successful and I thought it would be nice to make these mats for Easter – the little hen print is so cute …….but I had better get a move on, Easter will be here before we know it and bringing better weather I hope. I have already washed the fabric and unpicked the hems so I am ready to go.

I made pancakes on Tuesday. As we knew we would be out all day we both set to in the kitchen and did some preparation towards them. We usually have filled pancakes as a main meal so DH chopped the leeks and mushrooms and I made the batter – we make a good team (but only if he does things my way!!). Everything then went into the fridge for later – good job we thought ahead as it was 6.30pm when we arrived home.

They didn’t take long to cook and assemble – I cooked the leek and mushrooms together with a little parsley and seasoning for the filling; made a few pancakes then rolled each one up with the filling inside and laid them in an ovenproof dish.

I always use buckwheat flour, which the French use for their delicious crepes) because I like the crispier, lighter texture and once all the pancakes were made I covered them in a cheese sauce (I cheated here with a pot of Sainsbury’s own), topped everything with a sprinkle of seeds, Parmesan shavings and sliced tomato and then baked in the oven.

I have batter left over to make some plain pancakes to have with lemon juice as a pudding – but that will be another day.

During the school holidays last week we went up to North Yorkshire to stay with my daughter and grandchildren. We took Little L and Sweetie out for the day on Friday to Bowes Museum. It was the only place around that was indoors and warm – away from those terrible winds. We could hardly stand up outside in the car park – the rain was lashing about us but once inside there was lots to see and they are very child friendly.

At 2pm everyday you can visit the room with the famous Silver Swan (no I hadn’t heard of it either!) and see it perform. It is rather beautiful and a great feat of delicate engineering – when it is wound up the neck moves around and then dips its beak into the water below to catch one of the little fishes. I captured it on video but sadly I can’t upload it to my blog but you can see it here on You Tube.

We also had a trip to Northallerton a lovely, but busy, market town full of independant shops and stores…..and Betty’s (if you can afford it…..we can’t). I stocked up with a few items from Boyes – a brilliant cut price family run store that is a bit like a small Woolworths and they have a few branches in the North. They have an excellent selection of wool and I was tempted, but I decided I must finish the jumper I am knitting before I buy anymore.

Today I had to pop down to town to the library and use my double points petrol token before it expired. DH will be having a tooth removed by the time you read this. Ouch.

We will be up in North Yorkshire again at the end of the week as we have to look after my mum whilst my sister is away on a short holiday – so I may have a few days away from blogging.

Take care everyone and stay warm x

dear diary :: a time for home

The sun streaming through the windows yesterday morning was a cheerful sight to wake up to and it made my snap decision to do some sewing an easy one. Sadly, the better weather did not last and by the afternoon we were back to lashing rain and grey lifeless skies.

Even today the rain continues to fall and is far too wet to go outside with the camera – but the patterns of the raindrops on our window panes are quite delightful and worth capturing.

Being indoors and just being at home is all I need in winter. I busy myself with small jobs around the house, finishing projects here and there and keeping warm in the kitchen making and baking and using up any food so it doesn’t go to waste.

I took the opportunity yesterday to make the cot duvet cover and a matching pillowslip for little Sweetie. I bought the fabric a while ago from John Lewis, it wasn’t exactly cheap but cheaper than buying a ready made duvet cover. I chose two fabrics, one with unicorns (all little girls love unicorns it seems) and one with tiny pink hearts for the reverse. The unicorn fabric was more expensive than the pink hearts so I tried to manage with as little as possible – maybe a little too little as I found when I came to measure up and cut out – but I skimped by; after all Sweetie will not be in a cot for long and then will be moving on to a larger duvet.

I was so pleased at the end of the day to have another task to cross off my list.

During the morning we received a letter in the post addressed to ‘Granny and Grandad’ – inside was a beautiful card made by Little L with a message inside and some tiny feathers – don’t things like this just tug at the heartstrings. It will have pride of place on the mantelpiece.

The jumper is moving on – the back is finished and I am now counting stitches again on the few rows of pattern on the front – it takes all my concentration and lo behold anyone that interupts me – DH knows by now to keep well out of the way when he hears me counting out loud. Despite the difficult bits I keep encountering I do find it quite relaxing to knit in the evenings – my shoulders and neck however think otherwise and have become a bit tense recently so I may have to have a few nights off.

The kitchen planner came on Monday and we spent a good three hours measuring, discussing and looking at what might fit into our tiny kitchen and selecting possible samples of cabinet colour and worktop. Of course you always hit stumbling blocks and compromises have to be made but I shall be glad just to have some new units that are not coming apart. The kitchen we have now is almost 40 years old, pan drawers were not on the radar back then and hardly anyone had a dishwasher – now we would like both, although, I would not be too disappointed if I couldn’t fit a dishwasher in, what you have never had you will never miss.

There are questions to be answered of course……….do I need a self cleaning oven or a steam oven, a dishwasher that has no child lock or one that doesn’t signal the end of the cycle – I really don’t know because I have managed without these things up till now. Should we go with a ceramic hob or induction and should it have four rings or two rings and an oblong area? It is all foreign to me – any suggestions gratefully received – the appliances are such a big outlay if you get it wrong.

By the end of the session our minds were buzzing but I do feel we are now a little closer to a final design. The visuals they produce make it so much easier to see the finished plans – how did we ever manage without them?

On Sunday prior to the kitchen planner coming I had the great idea of cleaning out our china cupboards in the dining area. It was not one of my best ideas but as it was another wet day we had decided to stay in and stay warm – I find it a very tiring job but one filled with satisfaction afterwards.

Whenever I clean out these two cupboards I am reminded of how much china I actually own, it is a great weakness of mine, where one person might buy shoes, I buy china. I love it all and most of it is in constant use. I decided some bits and pieces can now move into the pantry – bread baskets and wooden tablemats which we only use occasionally when we have guests or the family round.

I emptied the cabinets one at a time to avoid overload and then cleaned inside and out, lovingly dusting the contents with a clean tea cloth before replacing them (in a ‘pleasing arrangement’ as DH says). I just love my ‘proper’ Ainsley patterned china dinner service, I know they are not fashionable any longer – does anyone still hold dinner parties anymore? – but I would never part with mine in fact we used it on Burns night. Each piece we have was either a gift or chosen with care from the seconds factory down in Stoke on Trent. So although most of it is not perfect it is perfect in my eyes.

Most of my other china is white, clean and simple. Our everyday dishes are from the Thomas china range by Rosenthal that we bought back in the late 90’s (mostly in sales as it isn’t that cheap). Before this we had numerous cheap dinner sets but found that once a piece was broken a replacement could not be found. We have never had a problem with the Thomas china it is still being made today and in fact the newer updated shapes fit in very well.

I do confess to a bit of a jug and a spoon fetish too.

I can’t say that I actually decluttered anything in here and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to find anything I did not want – it all sparks joy and I can say hand on heart that nothing in my china cupboard languishes unused but I am making a great effort not to purchase anymore….well for a while anyway.

I had food to use up in the pantry too; a ripening pear and avocado and I had ideas for these. We had the avocado mashed onto a Sainsbury’s cheese stick (my favourite rolls at the moment though not as cheesy as Tescos’) then heaped with cooked courgettes, mushrooms and tomatoes with a side salad of grated beetroot and chopped cucumber all topped with grilled halloumi slices.

I made up a recipe to use up the ripe pear. I love chocolate and pear together but rather than make a chocolate and pear cake or pudding I made a quantity of chocolate sponge mixture and divided it into some bun cases, then pressed a few chunks of diced pear gently into the top, sprinkled over a few chocolate chips and baked them in the oven.

Result…. delicious. And easy to freeze and then pack up for our picnics.

Tomorrow we shall be on our way to North Yorkshire once again – it is the school holidays and we are going to see the grandchildren for a day or two – not that we can do very much in this weather – I think a trip to the park will be out!

Hope everyone is keeping warm and has not been flooded out. x

dear diary :: cold winter Sundays

We are back to rain and wind here at the foot of the Pennines in West Yorkshire, in fact the sun rarely managed a smile all week.

Valentine’s day came and went with only minimal acknowledgement here – a few heart shaped jammy dodgers from Ikea and an exchange of cards and kisses, but it is good to mark the occasion even in a small way. He loved the little card I made for him but I think he probably liked the biscuits more!

We actually spent the day at my daughter’s house looking after little Freddie for a while so she could indulge in a long lie in and nurse her bad cold and cough. The winter bugs had caught up with her when she returned to work last week and she had struggled in for the three days previously and was now feeling a bit fed up with herself and in need of a bit of mum’s cosseting.

Little Freddie had not been too well either with conjunctivitis and a cold so when it was time for his nap we wrapped him up well put him in the pushchair and went for a walk to the nearby Co-op to buy something for lunch – he promptly fell asleep so to get out of the cold we treated ourselves to a hot drink and a toasted teacake, oozing with butter, in a nearby cafe. He slept for a good 3 hours in all, I reckon he was catching up for all the disturbed nights he had recently.

Even through all this awful weather there are signs of new life springing up everywhere but it would be a little too early yet to start thinkng about a thorough spring cleaning session. Instead I am just concentrating on getting the washing and ironing up to date and rearranging a few cupboards and drawers in preparation.

Last Thursday we decided to go down to Sheffield (city of my birth), I love to go as it holds such wonderful memories for me from my childhood. My family survived many a bomb during the WW2 blitz over the four days of continued bombing between 12th and 15th December 1940. My grandma’s sister had her house totally destroyed but luckily she was in a shelter with her family at the time so came out of it unharmed.

Most of the city centre had to be rebuilt after the war and Sheffield continues the rebuilding with a major regeneration scheme called Heart of the City phases 1 & 2. I love the way that the old and the new sit side by side. This building site around Charter Square and the Pepperpot building is at the back of the John Lewis store on Barker’s Pool which was built in the sixties – to the right of the picture is the huge new HSBC building.

I was so pleased to find that this old block comprising of street level shops with accomodation above will not be pulled down – Sheffield Council acknowledge the strong feeling to keep many of the historical buildings. Only the frontages of these buildings will remain with a modern extension being built behind. Places like this are part of the heritage of Sheffield, the silversmiths and cutlers worked in these areas and derserve a place of rememberance in the new look city centre. The glass corner to the right that you can see lit up is currently being used as a site office but was up until very recently the workshop of a local jeweller, a family business, who has now moved across the road. I loved to pass by and see them working at their machines making the rings and jewellery that they sold in the shop below.

Across the street the old Salvation Army building, built like a fortress, has sadly been empty for many years now but such a fine building and waiting to be loved once again. There are plans I believe to turn it into a fine restaurant.

Walking through the completed part of this new scheme Sheffield always goes in for bold landscaping – these ‘sculptural’ rocks are huge when you walk beside them. Sheffield is of course famous for its steel and this is usually quite evident in much of new city landscaping projects. My grandad worked in the steel works, as did many of the men in my family – it was not an easy job and it is good that there is a lasting tribute to all their hard labours.

Although our trip over there was predominantly to go to Ikea to get an extra shelf for the pantry and a couple of storage jars we couldn’t leave without popping into the John Lewis store. Last week I received a notification that members of the John Lewis reward scheme can exchange any 5 empty beauty products for a £5 voucher to spend on any beauty product they sell. I took my 5 empty bottles and bought this Liz Earle shampoo for £5.62 it normally costs £12.50 but there is a 15% discount offer at the moment as well as my £5 voucher so it was quite a good bargain. I also picked up my free copy of the Waitrose magazine which has one or two recipes I might try out.

In The Works I bought a few bits and pieces for Little L ready for Easter – she loves to make things and can’t decide if she wants to be an artist or a ballerina when she grows up. We always have great fun making things together. In Hobbycraft I bought these tiny star cutters ready for my next cake (shame I didn’t have these when I made the cake for little Freddie’s first birthday), and a pack of clear stamps that have Thank You on them as the rubber on my wooden one has now gone hard and won’t print very well.

Yesterday we indulged and bought some pastries from the Co-op for after lunch – I put them close to the healthier apples – I know which will go first!

The knitting is well underway now (well for me that is) and growing quite quickly; I know you experienced knitters out there would be announcing the completion by now but I am pleased just to have reached the neckline without any unravelling or dropped stitches. I am contemplating how to form a decent neckline – it looks like it could be a place where a little skill is needed….oh dear!

Hope everyone has had a restful weekend and is ready for the week ahead. We are expecting a visit from the kitchen planner tomorrow (weather permitting this time). I think we have almost made up our minds on many of the appliances, doors and colours – now we have to make sure everything will fit and that it will all come within our limited budget.

dear diary :: a positive day, if not a little chilly

Some days can just start off more positive than others – I am not sure what makes the difference but today just happened to be a very positive one. Outside on the step and covering a few plants I could see the remains of the slushy snow; the only evidence that we had had a fall of snow overnight. It soon disappeared as the sun came out……..for all of an hour, but it did mean I could get the washing on the line, fill the bird feeders and take out the recycling. I didn’t hang around as is was bitterly cold.

I had breakfast alone as DH had a hair appointment booked this morning, so he was up, showered and off. He had a dental appointment this afternoon and we thought it was to take his tooth out but the dentist felt there was still some infection so it has been rearranged for two weeks time. DH much prefers the dentist to the hairdressers and always jokes that the hairdresser cuts his hair without even giving him an anaesthetic.

I had a leisurely breakfast watching the birds outside, mainly magpies, doing some rather daring manoeuvres to try and get the peanuts out of the little pottery acorns. DH had peeled and chopped the oranges, a job he is good at and I am not, and I combined these with a few blueberries and yoghurt followed by toast generously spread with the lemon curd I made a couple of weeks ago. I don’t usually have toast so it was a nice change from muesli and always goes well with a cup of tea. I am hoping that somewhere in this breakfast I will have satisfied a little of my vitamin C quota for the day.

Whilst DH was out I rushed upstairs to make him a Valentine card. I had no ideas in mind other than something with a heart and something pink would be appropriate. So after a rummage around in the craft drawers I came up with a few different sized heart stamps, some ink pads and a bit of glitter.

I played around a bit and came up with a prototype….well what can you expect in 15 minutes…. the first one didn’t go too well so I had another go and decided this is as good as it is going to get as I know I won’t have time to make another one…..anyway it is the thought that counts. I might even surprise him and bake a cake.

Being in craft mode I went on to make a birthday card for a colleague where I used to work. Her birthday is on Valentine’s day and I know she loves homemade cards as she makes her own too.

I have had these little daisy flowers for ages and had not really had any ideas for using them. After playing around a bit I decided to attached each fower to a wire stem using the trusty mini glue gun and then mount them onto a triangular base.

I made some butterfly cards in a similar way a few years ago by recycling the insides of envelopes – those official looking envelopes that you get with the interesting little patterns on the inside. Everyone thought they were quite cute. This is not a good picture but you get the gist.

I decided on a natural brown craft card to contrast with the white daisy flowers that have a little wooden bead in the centre and then added one of the pre-printed labels I had left over from a previous project. The card is quite tiny but will stand up easily on a mantel piece or table.

Scoring the bottom part of the triangle means that you can fold it flat to put it into the envelope.

After lunch we went to the dentist and then I dropped the card for my friend in at reception before going round to the library. I found an interesting little book called Make, Mend, Bake, Save & Shine written by Jo Godfrey Wood – full of handy tips to save money and make things last as long as they can and avoid throwing things out. I am all for not throwing away things that can be reused or repurposed. It should be an interesting read.

Now I have the pantry up and running I intend to make a list of meals that I can make to use up a lot of the food in there. Seeing it all displayed on shelves rather than stacked together in the old kitchen cupboards is so much better and reminds me just what we have in stock so hopefully food will not get wasted quite as much.

I am back to bedtime now once again – don’t the days whizz round quickly – in fact I should be in bed now so I am rushing to finish this. It will be another cleaning day tomorrow and a catch up with the ironing…oh and I seem to remember I said I might bake a cake.

creating health and wellbeing

Nothing much to report on this today I feel bad as I only did two of the exercises for my knees. Must do better tomorrow and schedule in some time to do them all. My knees do benefit from the exercises when I manage to do them for more than two or three days together so I would imagine if I could just stick at it for a week I would see a good result.

On my consultants advice I take vitamin D3 – it is the best thing ever in my mind and recently I have been taking vitamin B12 which I do occasionally as I am vegetarian and this can be something we don’t get a lot of from our diet and in myself a lack of it can make me feel dizzy.

The Optima Activjuice is a food supplement to help joints and was a very reasonable £3 something from Boyes in Northallerton so I thought I would give it a go. Hypothyroidism often produces long term joint and muscle problems so I am looking to see what might improve this – I obviously cannot do anything to improve my thyroid gland as I don’t have one so I am hoping something I try might just help to alleviate the joint and muscle problems I have.

dear diary :: morning glory

What a beautiful day today – I spent the morning in the garden and it was gloriously sunny and warm and quite calm. The birds were twittering away and it felt like spring had arrived which is not usually this early high up in the Pennines as we are here. The jolly Budha was certainly smiling, yet we all know this kind of weather can be very deceiving and we might suddenly be plunged once again into cold, wet, wind and snow.

With this in mind I didn’t cut back very much of the dead foliage in the garden as it can be quite protective of any harsh weather still to come. I did manage to get the bulbs planted that had started growing indoors in the bag and I also repotted some tiny Irises I bought in Thirsk at the weekend as well as planting out a pot of snowdrops into the small border.

There are bulbs springing up all over the garden now and the Primulas are in full bloom.

Even the pansies have over wintered well this time.

The rhododendron grown by DH’s grandfather and named after him has some nice fat buds waiting to burst open when the time is right. I just hope this year they don’t open too soon and then get hit by later frosts. The one in our Scottish garden which was a cutting from this plant does much better.

I was so glad to see the Clematis I bought last year, and which is still in a pot, has some new leaf buds….an encouraging sign that I have not yet killed it.

In between a bit of gardening and tidying I was running in and out with the washing getting as much done as I could and out on the line while the going was good. DH had taken his car down to our local village garage to have the brake discs done ready for the MOT in April. It has been quite a hefty month or two financially for the cars with both car tax and insurance being paid on top of the recent maintenance costs and an annual service.

This afternoon I went up the road for a cup of tea and a natter with my neighbour. We usualy meet on a Friday but she will be out tomorrow. We spend a couple of hours putting the world to rights and catching up with our news – a lot can happen in a week.

Tonight I am making a cauliflower and broccoli bake for our supper. It is one of my favourite meals in the winter months and quite quick to do. After tea I expect we might just cosy down and watch some TV and maybe an early night. I have just finished my book ‘Confessions of a Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell – I enjoyed it as much as the earlier one he wrote though I would be very wary of starting a converstion with him should we ever visit his shop in Wigtown, which is round the bay from our cottage, just in case the conversation was ever recorded like many in one of his books!

Tomorrow I still have a million and one jobs to do so we should be having another day at home. Have a relaxing evening…I am! xx

dear diary :: oh my, oh my…

It has been a long time and a long time away from the old key board – not intentional I assure you and I hope that in the days that have passed you are all well and thoroughly enjoyed January.

Like my life, the changes in the weather have been so unsettling recently that no two days have hardly been the same. We have swung from bitterly cold to blustery winds with a lashing or two of rain in between….. and a day of snow.

So exactly what have I been doing, you might ask?

….and isn’t it hard to remember?

January is a busy month for us with birthdays and on top of that we have more than a few special remembrance days of my father-in-law, mother-in-law, a close uncle and yesterday for my dear old dad – who fell ill during January before he died. It would seem that my family like to fit in one good ‘last Christmas’ before departing from us. It is hard looking back and remembering all the good times we had with each of them, these memories are so precious to me and I like to have some quiet time alone, just me and the photo albums.

After writing my last post (on the 21st January) we managed to squeeze in an appointment with the kitchen planner in Sheffield to discuss the possibility of a new kitchen (yeah) and take up the discounted deal on offer. We arranged for the planner to come over on the following Tuesday to take measurements and look at our space and advise on what might fit in it, but unfortunately that was the day it snowed here so had to be cancelled and is now rearranged for later in February. In the meantime we are trudging endlessly around kitchen showrooms looking for ideas and at the appliances we will need to install. Already it feels like an expensive project.

On the Friday (24th) we had a lovely trip out to our local theatre to see Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn – you either love him or you don’t – I like his humour and both the play and actors were brilliant. It is ages since we had an evening at the theatre; we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and agreed that we really do need to get out more.

Saturday was our Burns’ night supper that we host for some of our closest friends and in memory of my Scottish father-in-law who died on Burns’ night (after attending a Burns’ night supper himself at his local church, though I might add his death was not a consequence of the food!).

It has become a bit of a tradition now and each year we add in something new. This year we made Cock-a-Leekie soup as a starter but being vegetarian without the ‘cock’ – so just ‘Leekie’ soup – which was actually just our leek and potato soup recipe – it went down very well though and instead of rolls I made Parmesan crisps (not very Scottish I know but very nice all the same).

We did a special version of the kanban board to help us prepare for the evening and the glass in the patio doors proved to be an effective place to stick all the individual post it note tasks. I decorated a few places around the house with a touch of tartan and placed candlelit lanterns outside in the garden.

The evening was a success even though we were all crammed into our tiny dining area and one of the meat haggis exploded in the oven with quite a bang. The Cranachan recipe using porridge oats was certainly not as good as last year’s version using oatmeal, but enjoyable none the less and I have made a note of this for next year. We managed to polish off all the Tunnoch’s caramel wafers and chocolate teacakes and down a dram or two of whisky before everyone left for home and we climbed into bed at around 3am – so rather a late start to Sunday (….well what was left of it).

Sunday I cleaned the oven to remove the dreaded bits of haggis from every nook and cranny it had attached itself to.

The following Monday we had a trip over to the south of Manchester for the Citroen specialist to adjust the suspension on our car. It is much better now and actually glides over the bumps as it should and even better he only charged £40 which was good news for us after the hundreds we have given to the local Citroen garage in their attempts to get it sorted.

I had hair and physio appointments and was looking forward to a restful weekend but our plans had to change suddenly when both mum and our younger daughter in North Yorkshire required our services urgently. After the physio session on Thursday we hastily packed and shot off to stay with our daughter and the two grandchildren.

Our daughter only moved into her new house last November in a new area and Little L has started a new school…. just when we thought they were all settled – it appears that not all is well with her new landlady and the property she is renting she may not be able to stay in the house (obviously I cannot go into detail here but through no fault of her own may have to move again) – we are waiting for more news on this and as is the case these days no one can discuss the matter with her. What a good job we had not had the time to order the new wardrobes.

My mum had not been well all week and my sister had to go away for a long weekend so she needed our help. She is feeling very down at the moment because she cannot get out and about like she used to. She had an x-ray on her hip, knees and feet last week and my sister who accompanied her saw the x-rays and the radiologist explained what was what – apparently her right hip does not look good, there is no fluid surrounding it and the bones are wearing away. She now has to wait 3 months for an appointment at the clinic to discuss what can or cannot be done. I am amazed at how quickly she has gone downhill; when we went on Saturday to take her out for the day she could barely walk to the car.

As she didn’t need us to take her for any shopping we had a run out over to Saltburn for lunch at the deli cafe and then went down the coast to Sandsend. It is a lovely run and en route we ventured off the main coast road and went along the single track road to explore Goldsborough and Kettleness.

Goldsborough, which is tiny and off the beaten track, does still have a pub called The Fox and Hounds, whilst further on Kettleness village is just a cluster of tiny cottages on the headland since the rest of the village plunged into the sea one stormy night in 1829. The most notable feature is a little abandoned chapel on the way down to the village after this you can go no further and have to turn around and go back.

On Sunday we gave my daughter a break and took the girls, Little L and Sweetie, out for a few hours. It was damp and cold so going to the playground or park was out. Little L had a few pounds in her purse and a book token so we went into Thirsk so she could find a book. The White Rose Book Cafe is one of my favourite places and after a lengthy browse around we had lunch there and eventually Little L settled on a book about boats.

We are home again now but returned to find my elder daughter who lives locally to us had not been well all weekend with a sickness bug caught from her husband and so her return to work yesterday after a lengthy maternity leave has had to be postponed a day or two!!

I think that is all my main news to tell and so today I am catching up with myself. There is paper work to do, washing, ironing and a lot of endless ‘bitty’ bits and pieces.

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my previous posts, they are much appreciated. I will be trying to catch up with all you lovely bloggers out there but might be doing a little more reading than commenting until I am up to date.

And of course welcome to all my new followers. x

creating health and well being

Needless to say this part of my life has been a little neglected of late. I should be reporting that I am exercising everyday, eating very healthy meals and remebering to drink more water and take my supplements.

I am working on it!

Truth is I will have to start over – not completely as nothing in life is ever wasted – but just get back on track and it would be a good idea to find my exercise sheet that I had developed with my physiotherapist.